Spider-Man: Homecoming  is the newest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a joint venture between Sony and Marvel Studios. Though it is the seventh film since 2002 to feature the character, it is the first film in the MCU to center on the teenage wall-crawling web-slinger (this excludes his extended introductory cameo in Captain America: Civil War). Peter Parker (aka Spider-Man) is portrayed by Tom Holland, backed up by supporting players Marisa Tomei (as the youngest Aunt May to date), Michael Keaton, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Laura Harrier, Jacob Batalon, Donald Glover, and Robert Downey, Jr. (returning as Tony Stark/Iron Man). Homecoming is directed by Jon Watts, who co-wrote the screenplay with Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna, and Erik Sommers.
Back to School: Spider-Man: Homecoming not only presents a brand new iteration of the character but reflects a change in audiences’ expectations for him. We are spared the tragic-yet-tired details of Uncle Ben’s murder and the exciting-but-exhausted emergence of Peter Parker’s powers, instead of lending focus to a John Hughes-inspired narrative; the angst of high school, the naiveté of a youthful Peter, and the often-absurd nature of growing up. The refreshment of seeing a Spider-Man film that isn’t chomping at the bit to make its main character graduate and become an adult within a single screenplay cannot be understated.
Containment and Development: Homecoming’s quality owes a lot to its character work, thanks in no small part to the giddy innocence Tom Holland brings to the title role, which comes full circle in some of the best acting moments I’ve yet seen from the Cinematic Universe. I’m not sure I’m ready to abandon the Tobey Maguire-train, but let’s just say my bags are in my hand for the next few stops. Singling out Michael Keaton, whose career rebound in the past few years has been nothing short of inspiring, this is the best single-serving villain of the MCU thus far (uncertain if the Vulture will make future appearances). Marvel’s villain problem is news to almost nobody, so to see an antagonist whose screen time is every bit as exhilarating (or at least close to) as the main hero is an exciting change of pace. Perhaps these praises can be chocked up to the contained moderate-stakes narrative. For all of the marketing department’s Stark-heavy advertisement, it is a magnificent relief that next to other outings from Marvel Studios, Spider-Man: Homecoming feels like something that can stand on its own two feet.
Bringing it Home: Homecoming lives up to its title, not just in the literal sense (there actually is a homecoming dance), but in the way that it shakes up the Marvel formula and brings the nature of heroism a little closer to home. Of course, this is something strongly attributed to the character, for even though we know of his likely future as an Avenger within the MCU, this film reminds us that for now, he is still the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Homecoming suffers from the occasional dip in pacing and the ever-present Marvel “quippiness” (the substitution of quick fire humor for strong storytelling). Nonetheless, Homecoming is both the second-best Spidey film (behind Raimi’s first film) and the second-best MCU film (behind Captain America: The Winter Soldier).